DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen enjoys solid support in the polls; Deputy Legislative Speaker and KMT presidential hopeful Hung Hsiu-chu’s China policy causes lawmakers to quit her party; PFP Chairman James Soong is mulling entering the presidential race; China approves a new security law that undermines Taiwan’s dignity; a fire at a water park kills two and injures almost 500. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS
SUPPORT FOR TSAI ON THE RISE: Support for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) rose again this week and now stands at 47.7 percent — 20 percentage points ahead of her likely Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rival, deputy legislative speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), whose support rate declined from 30.5 percent after she won the party primary to 27.8 percent, according to a survey by the Taiwan Indicators Survey Research (TISR). Hung’s image as a pro-China candidate was reflected in the poll results, with 45.7 percent of respondents considering her as an advocate for unification.
If People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) entered the election and made it a three-way race, Tsai would win 37 percent of the vote, with Soong ranking second at 24 percent and Hung dropping to third at 20 percent, the TISR poll showed.
In another poll by the Chinese-language United Daily News conducted on Sunday and Monday, Tsai also enjoyed a double-digit lead over Hung by 45 to 33 percent. Over 90 percent of pan-green supporters threw their support behind Tsai while only 68 percent of pan-blue voters are in favor of Hung, according to the survey.
SOONG ‘OPEN TO’ PRESIDENTIAL BID: PFP Chairman James Soong said on Wednesday that he would consider running for president if the two major parties’ policies were “hijacked by fundamentalists.” Soong said that whether the KMT presidential candidate was able to break free of the influence of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and former National Security Council secretary general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) would be the determining factor in whether the PFP will nominate a candidate for next year’s presidential election or support the KMT. Soong, who remains influential in domestic politics, has run in the presidential election three times — twice as the presidential candidate (2000 and 2012) and as vice presidential candidate in 2004.
HUNG’S CHINA POLICY, POTENTIAL KMT SPLIT: Former KMT legislator Chang Sho-wen (張碩文) on Monday announced his withdrawal from the party and his decision to join the PFP, potentially sparking off an exodus of KMT politicians amidst low party morale and unclear direction the KMT is heading. Two other KMT lawmakers threatened Tuesday to take the same action, with one openly attributing Hung Hsiu-chu’s cross-strait policies to her concerns over continuing her affiliation with the KMT.
Chang said more KMT legislators were considering embracing the PFP. Political analysts said Hung’s China policy and tensions between the KMT’s mainlander and Taiwanese wings would likely lead more KMT members to consider “abandoning ship” and cause a split in the party after the presidential election. Top KMT officials stressed the importance of party unity Tuesday, but dismissed the likelihood of mass exodus of her supposed comrades from the party.
Hung has proposed to replace the so-called “1992 consensus” with “one China, same interpretation (一中同表)”, prompting critics and the public to brand her as an advocate for Taiwan’s unification with China. Hung’s spokesperson, Jack Yu (游梓翔), however, said on Wednesday that her cross-strait policy reflects mainstream opinion in Taiwan.
The KMT confirmed last Friday that if she is elected, Hung would adopt her “one China, same interpretation” proposal as the base of her China policy, although the proposal is not listed on the party’s newly drafted policy platform.
Separately, after Hung accused Tsai Ing-wen of “not daring to publicly announce her support for Taiwan’s independence,” Tsai on Saturday responded by accusing Hung of being reckless in her cross-strait policy proposals, adding that Hung “has repeatedly changed her position on the cross-strait issue.”
NEGATIVE CAMPAIGN TARGETING DPP: The DPP has reported an online rumor alleging that the party had withheld criticism about last Saturday’s water park tragedy, in which two people were killed and nearly 500 others due to its financial links to the park. The DPP has requested an investigation into the negative campaign, which came on the heels of another online rumor that the family of Tsai Ing-wen owns a restaurant chain that is exploring business opportunities in China.
► CROSS STRAIT RELATIONS
PRC’S NEW SECURITY LAW: The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said it will lodge a formal protest with Beijing against its new national security law, which codified the inclusion of Taiwan, MAC Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) said on Wednesday. The law adopted by China’s Standing Committee of the Chinese National People’s Congress Wednesday stipulates that: “Safeguarding China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is the common obligation of all Chinese people, including people in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.”
TAIWAN’S AIIB BID: Taiwan will not apply for Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) membership if Beijing insists that Taiwan be subject to an article relating to applicants without sovereignty or rights to exercise external relations, which means that Taiwan would have to apply through Beijing, the Mainland Affairs Council stressed Tuesday. Taiwan’s bottom line on the name to be used by the government to join the AIIB is “Chinese Taipei.”
TAIPEI-SHANGHAI FORUM: Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said on Monday that he will attend the annual Taipei-Shanghai forum “if there is the opportunity” to do so, following media reports that negotiations between the two city governments over this year’s summit had run into difficulties as a result of Ko’s refusal to show greater “goodwill” in response to Beijing’s insistence that the so-called “1992 consensus” must be the foundation of cross-strait talks.
CHINESE TOURISTS TRANSIT NEGOTIATIONS STALLED: Despite an agreement by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) last June to allow Chinese tourists en route to other countries to transit through Taiwan, repeated requests by Beijing to establish new air routes directly crossing the median line in the Taiwan Strait during negotiations for the transit arrangement have led to a suspension of the new measure’s implementation.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
DPP DEFENDS SOUTH CHINA SEA POSITION: The DPP last Friday blasted an academic affiliated with a KMT think tank over his recent article speculating that DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen might break the cross-strait “status quo” by giving up the Republic of China’s claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea, describing the comment as false and “irresponsible.”
US-CHINA DIALOGUE AVERTS TAIWAN: Taiwan has played a limited role in the seventh annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington last week, as the U.S. reportedly did not even bring up the subject during any closed-door discussion. Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪), nevertheless, addressed that China had “reaffirmed its principled positions on Taiwan” in his publicly released closing remarks.
JAPAN’S CONCERN OVER FIGHTER JET PAINTING: Amid Japan’s concerns over the painting of Japan’s national flags－symbolizing Japanese military planes shot down by rival armies — on two fighter jets to appear in an upcoming military display marking the 70th anniversary of the Republic of China’s victory over Japan in the second Sino-Japanese War, Taiwan’s Air Force admitted on Wednesday that the plane decoration was made “without proper deliberation” and thus removed.
REPERCUSSION OF CHINA-VIETNAM TENSIONS ON TAIWAN: The Taiwanese government is on alert over rising tensions between China and Vietnam prompted by Beijing’s unilateral decision to resume the installation of oil rigs in the South China Sea, the Chinese-language Liberty Times has reported. Taiwanese businesses with investments in Vietnam are in apprehension of a repeat of the anti-China riots last May in which rioters’ anger and attack spreaded to those from Taiwan, officials said.
US HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT: Taiwan’s human rights problems essentially lie in its labor exploitation of migrant workers by fishing companies, exploitation of domestic workers by brokerage agencies and official corruption, according to the recently published Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014 by the U.S., which also addressed China’s poor records in repression, coercion, corruption and persecution. The delay of the report was speculated as deliberate partly to avoid upsetting China before a series of strategic and diplomatic talks were completed last week.
MA MAY VISIT BOSTON: President Ma Ying-jeou is to embark on a trip next Saturday to three diplomatic allies of Taiwan in the Caribbean and Central America, including the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Nicaragua. Ma could also visit his alma mater, Harvard University, during his transit in Boston, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.
TEXTBOOK DISPUTE: Citing what it said was evidence that some senior-high-school history textbooks constituted “propaganda material designed to promote the KMT’s history and cross-strait unification,” the Taiwan Solidarity Union lambasted the deletion of certain historic events from the new textbooks and urged teachers not to use these textbooks. Recent revisions by the Ministry of Education have led to a series of protests by civic groups and students since last year. A publisher that followed the controversial curriculum guidelines incorporated events concerning former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) into Taiwan’s history.
PRO-INDEPENDENCE PARTY TO BE ESTABLISHED: Senior Taiwanese independence campaigners on Thursday announced they will establish the Taiwan Independence Action Party (TIAP), saying that the DPP has been “diverted from the independence movement.” The party, the second pro-independence party established recently following the Free Taiwan Party, will be led by political commentator Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), former presidential advisers Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) and Wu Li-pei (吳澧培), and former Presidential Office secretary-general Chen Shih-meng (陳師孟).
► DEFENSE AND SECURITY
US FRIGATE TRANSFER: U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce is urging the White House to immediately issue a final authorization for the transfer of two Perry-class guided missile frigates to Taiwan, although China lodged a formal complaint with the US about the transfer and called for an end to all arms sales to Taiwan.
SMALL CHINESE SUB A CONCERN: The development of smaller submarines would strengthen China’s ability to develop unmanned underwater combat vehicles, expanding its gathering capabilities to invade Taiwan, warned International Assessment and Strategy Center senior fellow Richard Fisher.
DEADLY WATER PARK INFERNO: Hospitals in Taipei and New Taipei City were flooded with patients following an inferno at a water park in New Taipei City on Saturday, which killed two and injured nearly 500, including six foreigners and seven people from China, Hong Kong and Macau. The fatal blaze occurred when colored powder sprayed from the stage caught fire. As of Wednesday, 273 burn victims were still being treated in intensive care units.
HUMAN ERROR CITED IN PLANE CRASH: The pilot of TransAsia Airways Flight GE235 that crashed into Keelung River in Taipei on Feb. 4 admitted in a conversation recorded by the plane’s cockpit voice recorder that he shut down the wrong engine, the Aviation Safety Council (ASC) said on Thursday. The communication records show that the pilot, Liao Chien-tsung (廖建宗), should have shut off the No. 2 engine when it flamed out after takeoff, but Liao said that he shut down the No. 1 engine instead, the ASC said.
TAIWANESE LINKED TO N KOREA ARMS DEAL: South Korea imposed financial sanctions last Friday on three individuals and three companies from Taiwan due to their alleged links to weapons trade with North Korea.
CHINESE GARBAGE ‘AN ISSUE’: The Control Yuan urged the Mainland Affairs Council on Monday to draw the attention of Chinese officials to the large amounts of garbage from China that have been washing ashore the Matsu Islands, which is threatening the ecotourism industry there.
PROTEST OVER TUITION FEE HIKE: University students and their parents launched a protest last Friday against the Ministry of Education’s approval of tuition fee increases for nine universities, warning that the fee hikes would accentuate the challenges faced by poor families.
The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang and staff members. Comments? Leads? You can reach us at email@example.com. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.
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